Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strange evening

It was a long day, with a strange evening to conclude it...shocking, especially for the kids.  As Anthony and I rode into Tamaqua to pick up the girls, it was a beautiful, clear evening.  On the other side of the road, a Police patrol car straddled the shoulder and left lane, sticking obtrusively into traffic.  I could not see if he had a car pulled over, but the whole scenario just struck me as odd...but we thought nothing more of it and drove into the town.  After a disconcertingly bad attempt at double parking (hey, I'm a country bumpkin now!) we doubled up in front of Subway, chatting as we waited for the girls to come out.  After some hurried re-arranging of the car, we gathered everyone and started home.  The girls were chock full of chatter, and we listened as they talked on and on. 

As we approached the area of the earlier police car, we now noticed that there were two police cars instead of one now blocking the road, on a very dangerous bend.  It was now nightfall, and Rt. 309 is only 45 mph in that area, so between the glare, the bend, and the confusion of the police car facing oncoming traffic, I became somewhat disgruntled at what this officer could possibly be thinking, with his car stopped in oncoming traffic blocking the road.  Did he want us to stop?  Was it some kind of a drunk stop on a Tuesday night?  I slowed to a near stop, unsure how to proceed.  I looked to the right, to the shoulder, instinctively, and it was there I saw the reason for the blockage...a dead man laying broken in the road.  I immediately gasped out, "Oh my God," and the two girls immediately followed my gaze...and both screamed and started panicking.

I tried to drive by as quickly as we could without endangering the police that were in their cars blocking the road, but it was enough for all to get a full view of the poor soul.  He lay in a position I've never seen a human being in, like a jack-knifed truck.  He was face down, yet somehow his face was tilted so that you could see his lifeless eyes.  The amount of blood was tremendous, all about him, and his salt and pepper hair was matted with it.  He was wearing a grey flannel and blue jeans, and his legs looked like broken twigs.  I felt so intensely sorry for him, my heart wrenched.  He had been walking along the barricade, and he had been hit and left, like so much garbage, or a deer.  But, he was a person.  He was someone's.  Even if he was, at worse case scenario, a drifter, he was still a man...and it was an extremely sad thing to witness.

The girls were silently weeping in the back seat, and Anthony tried to shake off the shock with platitudes and small talk, but by the end of the ride, we were all silent and red-eyed.  Again, the girls experienced a life lesson together, and again, I had to explain the facts to them.  They were a little more sober minded this time, a little more mature about the reality they had witnessed...the horror.  It was no movie, no video game, and he wasn't laid neatly in a coffin in the funeral parlor.  They saw the grim reality of a highway death.  And so did I. 

So, I am grateful today for many things, especially for the gifts of life and health we have been blessed with.  Never ever take those things for granted, for they can be gone in the blink of an eye, as they were for that poor man.  Life is unpredictable, and we should respect that thoroughly.

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